Obstetrics and emergency care are the services most affected by rising medical malpractice liability premiums, according to a survey of more than 1,000 hospitals conducted by the American Hospital Association.
More than 50% of hospitals in crisis states have difficulty recruiting physicians, and 40% say there is less physician coverage for emergency departments, according to the survey released Monday at the AHA's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
To demonstrate how access to care and premium rates differ, the survey compares conditions in 18 crisis states to states that have enacted liability reform. The crisis states, identified by the AMA, are Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.
"In some communities, hospitals have been forced to curtail or discontinue services, whether that means shutting down the emergency room for a few hours or permanently closing obstetrics departments," says AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack in a release. "This crisis comes at a time when hospitals face a difficult mix of resource pressures--from increased workforce wages to increased spending on pharmaceuticals."
The House passed a medical liability reform package in March that caps punitive damages at $250,000 or twice economic damages, whichever is higher, but does not limit actual damages. A similar Senate measure, SB 607, is not likely to garner the 60 votes needed to pass.
States that have enacted tort reform, such as California and Wisconsin, have slowed medical liability premium expense growth, the survey concludes. In crisis states, however, liability premiums have increased more than twice as quickly as premiums in reform states.
Medical liability for hospitals in crisis states costs as much as $11,435 per staffed bed compared with $4,228 per staffed bed in reform states, the report says.